Spain

my favourite restaurant

so 2 weeks in vejer just flew by – it was unusually windy, not a cold breeze, but a hot gust – levante – coming from the sahara;  fortunately its this wind that keeps the town bearable from the heat and if you sit in front of one of the many chiringuitos on the beach, you will barely feel the whip of sand.  the sea is always refreshing at this time of year.  what you must not do is sit on the beach during 12 – 5pm – the art is arriving at a nearby restaurant, taking a leisurely lunch, then moving to the beach.  we have several favourites – conil and la fontanilla, el palmar and nacarum (formally la chanca),  but my favourite is la taberna de el campero in zahara, followed by a dip in the sea on the lovely beach, which is surrounded by dunes and desert plants.

colourful shoes

spain is renowned for its ham, olive oil, sherry and shoes…….  i love the multicoloured espadrilles, though its getting harder and harder to find the ones without heels.  cadiz seems to  have a bigger choice of espadrilles and flamenco shoes.  i love the cobbled entrance of our hallway, its dating from the 12C .

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colour and tradition

what i love about our town is that it still keeps its traditions – all through the year, there are numerous events and dates that not only attract a tourist trade to an area where there is massive unemployment, but is also totally inclusive of the local community;  from cycle races,  candlelit nights,  flea markets, food festivals and of course the annual 2 week feria in august, which brings the whole community together night after night.   last night we watched the local young girls, plus one cute little boy, do an evening of flamenco dancing in the main square, watched by tens of grannies and families.  at midnight, you still have the youth and the old sitting side by side with their jamon and sherry in hand watching as the world is ablaze with the colour of the andalucian sounds and clapping of children having fun.

vejer de la fronterra

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sandcastles in spain

we have arrived for our annual family holiday in Vejer and its hot, hot, hot….if you cant get up early, then the only time to go to the beach in spain is after 4pm in the summer;   but once you’re there, you can sunbathe right up til 8pm.   last year the kids built this rectangular sandcastle – inspired by the hogwarts castle  that they saw on the beach.

my favourite beaches in andalucia are El Palmar – popular for surfing in the winter and the local beach to our village of Vejer de la Fronterra;   Zahora, hidden away, this natural beach is within a bay, so a bit more sheltered than the wider open beaches;  cabo de Trafalgar, is the famous beach from the battle of Trafalgar, totally unspoilt with nothing built on it – lots of kite surfers feequent this beach when the conditions are right for surfing;   Zahara de los Atunes is a  fishing village by the sea with a long windswept rugged beach, popular in the summer with tourists;  Canos de la Meca is  a smaller hippy beach, again a bit sheltered, but very busy in the summer – only worth going to out of the busy august period;  Conil is more built up than the other beaches, but has a fantastic long wide beach and the sea is perfect for wave jumping;   Bolonia is a great beach with the added attraction of some Roman ruins, dunes and the odd cow or horse stepping out on the seafront;  Tarifa is hip, young and a magnet for windsurfing and kite surfers, but also has the wonderful dunes nearby;  La Barossa has more hotels around, more built up, but again a fabulous long beach; San Lucar de la Barrameda is an old fishing village by the sea, famed for its seafood – its one of our favourite towns in spain – not at all trendy, just full of locals from jerez and seville.

 

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dunes

Just outside of Tarifa are the dunes, along side  the beaches of Playas Vaqueros and Punta Paloma,  where you can also  marvel at the kite surfers, doing their somersaults in the air and riding the waves at an incredible speed.

The dunes are surrounded by pine forests , have incredibly white fine sand and makes you feel that you are lost somewhere in a desert!  (But you are still in spain)  The kids just love jumping down the sides of the slopes, though dont do this in the midday heat of the sun!!  Funnily enough , you are only 35 mins away by hovercraft to Tangier!   You can see the mainland of Morocco from the dunes.  You can pick up a daily boat from Tarifa to Tangier, have lunch, explore the souk and then get back again to mainland Spain that same day.  

chiringuitos

I am back in spain for a few days, sorting the house after some building works, but with a few of my girlfriends.  its very different being away with all females, a much more relaxed and easy going vibe!    these girls love the beach though, so most of our time is spent by the sea – though the football has drawn some of us back…….

Chiringuitos, are small bars or stands that can be seen the length of the Spanish coast, usually on the beachfront they open up during the busier holiday times and are much more affordable.  There are different types, some selling cold beverages and others that are much more elaborate and may serve meals. Some of the most typical treats on offer are paella and sardines, although the variety depends on the place . last summer we frequented .gurugu , just past la chanca restaurant –  a vibrant pop up restaurant/bar, serving more modern food – not too pricey, the food was quite good, especially the noodles with vegetables, this only pops up during the summer months.   at the other end a very good value restaurant is el Cortijiyo – great grilled sardines and this is a more permanent shack.   another fun vibrant chiringuita is tangana on valdequeros beach – very close to the dunes just outside of tariff.   there is a lovely shop there too, caravan, housed in a caravan type shack, selling more quality summer clothes.  we now have pop up vans and trucks which is the english equivalent to the chiringuita.

festivals

so we arrived in vejer to the celebration of ‘corpus christi’ in town, and  ended our trip with  ‘noches de velas’  - an amazing fete of hanging hundreds of candles around the streets of the old town and especially in the main square, plaza espana – accompanied by a group of singers sat in the middle of the candles.   what a splendid sight, though marred by the hundreds of visitors visiting the town to catch the atmosphere – all the street lights were turned off, so the town looked romantically medieval.   how lovely it would have been to have had the town candlelit minus all the visitors.   vejer definitely knows how to do a festival!

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the pleasures of eating

well our little town is now the destination for restaurants in the area – who would have guessed this.  when we bought our house over 16 years ago, there was only a couple of restaurants, plus a few local bars who did tapas;  now there are a variety of high quality restaurants, not only in the village but in the countryside close by.  there are even cookery classes on the local cuisine – how amazing!  this is the view from our balcony.

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Vejer has been listed in the sunday times top 100 ,  as one of spain’s tastiest town and recently as one of the prettiest towns in Spain.  we just had the big cycling event la vuelta finish in vejer too.  it lists restaurant el patria and el castilleria (our favourite eating place, though mainly excelling in steak and lamb) as places to go as well as participating at Annie B’s , where Annie will take you out to the  local food market and then teach you how to cook local specialities in her beautiful andalucian home;    she will also take you to Barbate to the local fish market – which is still kept to its original working state with an amazing variety of fish to buy, including the famous locally caught tuna.  Barbate is not a pretty town, but a working fishing town – it has one of the best restaurants in the area, el Campero – serving a variety of tuna specialities including sashimi.

our first port of call when we first arrive is always the reliable seafood at la fontanilla in conil - perfectly situated on the beach with awnings to shield from the sun and wind, the food is not just delicious, but it means the kids can wander safely onto the beach whilst you sit and eat. kids being kids, they just get bored sitting in restaurants…… next door, there is another similar restaurant, francisco la fontanilla – equally as good, so if you cant get a table in one, you will be able to get one at the other. remember though that sunday lunchtime is always the busiest time, even out of season. not only the locals come to the beach for lunch, but also visitors from seville and jerez. paella is a classic sunday lunch dish and is delicious at these restaurants – i would tend to say that fish is best by the sea, rather than inland in a village.

Restaurant Sajorami is a lovely restaurant to have lunch or an evening meal and watch the sun set. Its enviable position on the edge of a hill right next to Zahora beach guarantees beautiful sunsets. Zahora beach is the next beach to the Cape Trafalgar. its not cheap, but then you get the stunning view.

the restaurant at hotel antonio in Zahara is a new favourite – with a great position facing the sea, its a classic traditional restaurant, bustling with spanish locals.  its not in the old town of zahara, but still has a lovely beach.  also in zahara, el campero is a delicious place to eat, sister to the more well known one in barbate.

its probably one of the nicest places to sit at sunset. the garden of la chanca restaurant on el palmar offers great views of the sunset with the natural sand dunes between the garden and the beach – we  celebrated our 20th wedding  anniversary  with friends there in the garden and it really was perfect.

this was given to me by one of my clients who stayed one spring, and although the weather wasnt perfectly sunny, she enjoyed a gourmet trail around vejer.  here are her comments, which i think sum up the restaurants in the area.
We loved:
La Patria for the quality of the food and the friendliness of the owners and staff;
El Tresoro for the sublime beef and spectacular view;
La Castilleria for the beautiful food and ambience;
Los Quatro Gatos because it was different;
and El Jardin de Califa because the garden was so lovely and the service was good.

One of the newer restaurants in town, marengo has more modern style tapas but for a change it is good quality food, and of course Garimba has a few tapas dishes that are tasty, though like a lot of the restaurants in the area, they tend to do too many swirls on the side with the sauces.

Up in the new town, by the molinos, old windmills, there is a pizza pasta restaurant, called il Macinino, c/Jose Maria Peman 666.380 946. If you go up there as the sun is setting, there is also a bar close by housed in one of the converted windmills and you can watch the sun set and then eat dinner at the restaurant. The restaurant itself also has great views over the plains of Vejer countryside stretching to the sea, but depending on the time of year, you may want to watch the sunset before eating. Restaurants in spain tend to not open before 8.30pm.

i personally love Vejer out of season, you may not get the super hot weather, but you still get the charm and ambiance of a moorish town which offers a great variety of food and beaches.
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wonderful vistas of andalucia

we have arrived at what I think is the most beautiful time of year in andalucia, the views from the old windmills of vejer de la fronterra are stunning – you can see the gentle curves of the countryside – green in the spring, bleached in the summer and its just  now that the sunflowers are all out to give you the spectacular colour washes of yellow.  you can go and have a drink in one of the windmills, el poniente and watch the sun go down.

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hotels in and around vejer

vejer really has changed so much since we first got our house 16 years ago.  there was really only one hotel and a few hostels in town, but now there are many boutique style casas and numerous rooms and apartments to rent.

in the main square there is  Casa de Califa , which now has lots of different rooms in the ever-growing sprawling hotel,  all the rooms are quite traditional in a spanish moorish style, and there is a  lovely atmospheric garden restaurant for breakfast and dinner.

the very quaint boutique hotel, siete balcones –  with only 4 rooms in a beautifully restored casa in the heart of the old town of Vejer de la Fronterra – is tastefully decorated and sympathetic to the towns traditions.

casa shelley is another new boutique style hotel in vejer;  looks beautifully designed and comfortable and comes recommended.

Casa La Siesta is based in the nearby countryside of Vejer, in a tiny hamlet Los parallels ,and is totally serene and grown up.  Completely newly built, but using beautiful old doors and all the local materials, it’s reminiscent of an old finca, and is so well executed its hard to believe that its not an old original place.  There are lovely terraces to sit and eat, a grassed pool area and the bedrooms are spacious and very comfortable.   The main reception is a lovely high ceilinged hall.   The only downside is that they don’t take children under a certain age.  Perfectly peaceful, and only 10 mins from both the sea and the town of Vejer with all its amenieties, its ideal for a getaway that requires total quietness and relaxation.

Hotel Hurricane – just outside of Tarifa is fantastically situated, beautiful outlook and right on the seafront.  rooms are quite standard, but who is going to spend their time in a hotel room.

friends also recommend 100% fun - sounds a bit of a naff name, but apparently its very good and again a short walk from the sea front and just outside of Tarifa – i think its the nearest you get to being in ibiza!

havent been to this hotel, but it was highly recommended to me – looks stunning – one of those special places for a special time.  have a look at al aguilon- looks like my dream house.   situated near the wonderful dunes of tarifa – the natural beaches are unspoilt and perfect for surfing.

took a look at the rooms of sajorami, in zahora – again perfectly situated on the seafront, you get little cabins – quite like a chalet in switzerland – but very good value.

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